Tuesday, November 22, 2016


In June of 2009, Iran held an election that pitted the incumbent President Mahmound Ahmadinejad against challengers Mir-Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and Mohsen Rezaee. Although the incumbent President had captured 60% of the vote, there were widespread reports of election fraud (rigging) that led to demonstrations throughout Iran.

The protests in Iran started on the night of June 12, 2009, and lasted until February 10, 2011. In addition to numerous cities in Iran, the protests also expanded into a variety of cities in 40 other countries.

Officially, the number of deaths in the demonstrations was 36, but the number was actually closer to 72, and none of them were as famous as the death of Neda Agha-Soltan, whose death was posted on Facebooks, and quickly became the most watched killing in history.

In addition to those killed, an estimated 4000 people were arrested, Although the world was largely sympathetic to the protestors, the protests were not successful in forcing Ahmadinejad from power. He was term limited by the constitution to two terms, and was replaced on August 3, 2013 by Hassan Rouhani, who is the incumbent President.

That video is posted below:

dying in the street

At the time of her death, Neda was 26 years old, and she worked for her family’s travel agency. She was apolitical, and was not participating in the demonstrations. She simply stopped by with her music teacher to observe. As she walked back to her car, she was fatally shot in the chest. Although the identity of the murderer is still in dispute, reliable sources say that he was a member of Basij, a paramilitary group. The individual who has been accused of being the killer is named Abbas Kargar Javid, who is a member of Basij.

Neda’s story came to mind the week of November 7, when Donald Trump shocked and surprised the world by gaining more electoral votes than Hillary Clinton, even though she had gained roughly 400,000 more of the popular votes than he did. A week later, her margin was over 1,000,000 more votes, and is projected to be close to 2,000,000 by the time all the votes are counted.

In the latter stages of the campaign, Trump stated his belief that the election was rigged, due to the fact that virtually all the polls said the Hillary Clinton would have an easy win.

Trump is right. The campaign WAS rigged, but it was rigged by HIS campaign, not Hillary’s.

I have personally asked the Justice Department to investigation three specific areas of his campaign, which are as follows:

1) The website of the Democratic National Committee was hacked sometime this fall, and 20,000 emails were leaked to Wikileaks. In early October, the Department of Homeland Security and the intelligence community stated that they were confident that Moscow is behind the leaks.

2) 11 days before the election, FBI director James Comey sent a memo to Congress that he was taking another look at some of Hillary’s emails that had turned up in correspondence linked to Anthony Weiner, who is married (still) to Huma Abedin, a longtime friend of Mrs Clinton. She served as the vice chairwoman of Hillary’s Presidential campaign.

3) In mid - October, a senior Trump official told Businessweek that they had 3 major voter suppression operations in place. They were designed to suppress the votes of idealistic young liberals, young women, and African-Americans, all of whom are far more likely to vote Democratic than Republican. It is far too early to tell how successful the operations are, but the voter ID laws in Wisconsin, to use one example, caused 41,000 fewer votes to be cast in Milwaukee than were cast in 2012. In total, roughly 300,000 otherwise eligible voters in the state were denied the right to vote. Trump carried Wisconsin by 27,000 votes, and his margin in Michigan was an even thinner 11,000 votes.

Immediately after the election results were announced, protests erupted around the country. Both north bound Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, and parts of I-94 in the Twin Cities were blacked for a period of time by the protests, which have been overwhelming peaceful, and without incident. The one exception (so far) is Portland, Oregon, where a protestor was shot in the leg. The website of GOPUSA described the incident as “shooting in Portland as thugs rail against the Democrat process”, ignoring the fact that the right of assembly is enshrined in the 1st amendment of the Constitution.

If the inquiries by the Justice Department are not successful in reversing the results of the election, the next option is the Electoral College, which is scheduled to meet on December 19. Although historically the Electoral College has concurred with the electoral vote total, they are not obligated to do so. Ironically, Mr. Trump said that the Electoral College was a “disaster” during the 2012 Presidential campaign. In the event that enough electors switch their votes, and both candidates wind up with exactly 269 votes, then the decision passes to the House of Representatives. There are only two times in the history of our country that the House decided on the President, and the most recent decision was in 1824.

The Electoral College was designed to be a compromise between the government and the people. Alexander Hamilton was concerned that a charismatic tyrant could manipulate public opinion and come into power, which is why he did not want the President to be elected ONLY by popular vote, but he DID want voters to have a say in the process. Since a charismatic tyrant DID recently manipulate the public and become President-elect, the Electoral College has every right to reject him.

When Vice-President elect Mike Pence recently attended a performance of the play “Hamilton” in New York, he was booed by some members of the audience. At the end of the performance, one of the cast members addressed Pence directly, and politely asked him to protect the rights of ALL Americans. Trump took that as harassment, and immediately demanded (by tweet) that the cast members apologize. Trump, of course, has never apologized to the 281 people that HE criticized during the course of the campaign, but that’s just how he operates. The New York Times listed them by name on October 24, 2016.

If the Electoral College decided that Hillary Clinton should be the next President, there will be howls of protest from Republican voters, and there would likely be significant violence, since we have already seen plenty of examples of that during Trump’s campaign. Once the Electoral College has made its decision, it is ratified by the Senate, and that meeting is scheduled for December 6. Since the Republicans now control by houses o Congress, it’s unlikely that they would agree to a President Clinton, but you never know.

Once Trump is in office, a few observers have noted that he could well be impeached by his own party, which would give us President Pence, which isn’t much of an improvement. One of the reasons that he could be impeached is fraud committed before being elected, and a court date is set in California for November 28 that will examine the fraud he committed with Trump University. The rape case of the 13 year old girl is also scheduled to take place in New York before the end of the year. Since he just agreed to settle the Trump University case for $25 million, that case will not be going to trial, but the rape case is still dangling in the wind – as are 75 other pending court cases.

If Trump somehow manages to last 4 years, he is unlikely to get re-elected due to the following reasons:

1) The wall that he promised his supporters along the Mexican border isn’t going to get built. Although Trump has said the wall would cost $12 billion, a Washington Post study said the cost would be $25 billion, and would not result in no economic benefit to the United States. Mexico isn’t going to pay for the wall. If built, it would jeopardize our trade with Mexico, who is our 3rd largest trading partner. In 2015, we exported $267.2 billion worth of goods and services, and imported $316.4 billion. Since Canada is our 2nd largest trading partner, it’s clear that NAfTA was not the disaster that Mr. Trump said that it was.

2) He is not going to deport 11,000,000 illegal immigrants. According to a study by the American Action Forum, it would cost between $400 billion and $600 billion to do so.

3) He has already said that he isn’t going to repeal Obamacare, although it is certainly likely that it will be modified.

4) He has also stated that he is going to honor the nuclear arms treaty that was signed with Iran

5) If his tax plan were to be put in place, our national debt would skyrocket. According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, his plan would increase our national debt by 5.3 trillion, a healthy increase over the 19.5 trillion dollars that it will be at the end of the 2017 fiscal year. It is interesting to note that the last time the national debt went down was when Jimmy Carter was President. Since the Eisenhower years, our national debt, as a percentage of GDP, had gone DOWN when a Democrat was President, and UP when a Republican was in office. Ronald Reagan nearly tripled the national debt when he was in office.

6) The “rust belt” jobs of the white workers in the Midwest who helped him get elected are not coming back. Technology has made them obsolete.

80% of the folks who would consider themselves to be Evangelical Christians voted for Trump, even though Pope Francis has stated that Trump was definitely NOT a Christian, and a lot of these folks voted for Trump due to the abortion issue. In at least some cases, that was the ONLY reason they voted for Trump. This issue was especially complex for Roman Catholics. Even though the Conference of Catholic bishops had urged them NOT to vote for Trump, a pastor in Phoenix has proclaimed that anyone who voted for the Democrats was as guilty of performing abortions as the doctor who actually performed them. Although the idea is absurd, there ARE a lot of folks who believe him.

Trump himself has long been pro-choice, and he urged his then-mistress, Marla Maples, to get an abortion when she got pregnant. She refused, and their daughter Tiffany was born on October 13, 1993. Two months later, she and Donald Trump got married in New York.

In late April, Trump changed his position on abortion 5 times in a 3 day time period, so none of us really knows exactly what his position is.

Although all of us would love to see fewer abortions, the fact remains that abortions go DOWN when Democrats are in power, and go UP when Republicans are in power. They peaked when Reagan was President, declined when Clinton was in office, and increased when George W. was in office. Since Obama has been in office, they have declined 13%, and are now at a 40 year low.

In Iran, the lives of the average citizens did not change much after the re-election of their President, but the members of the marginalized members of their society, especially the religious minority, suffered greatly.

In America, most of would not be greatly inconvenienced by a Trump Presidency, but since his election a week ago, the Southern Poverty Law Center has documented 400 cases of discrimination against Asians, blacks, and Muslims. Those incidents include a Muslim man whose car was fire bombed while driving on a freeway in Texas. When Barack Obama was first elected in 2008, many people watching the ceremony shed tears of joy, and our country during his tenure has improved tremendously, in spite of unprecedented obstruction from some members of the Republican Party. During the period that will eventually become known as the new Camelot, Sister Kathy Sherman’s song, “this is the America I believe in” took on new meaning.

Even is Trump does get sworn in, there are MANY public officials who will fight tooth and nail to defend the progress that we have made as a society, and Senator Elizabeth Warren (who Trump called Pocahontas on the campaign trail) will likely be at the forefront of many of the fights.

give him hell, Elizabeth

Neda’s story has long since faced from memory, but the peaceful protests that she witnessed are still very much alive in America today, and will help to keep our elected demagogues in check.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

those darn Catholics

We recently became aware of the fact that one of our friends from Minnesota, Connie Walsh, had participated in a Future Church teleconference featuring four women who recently became deacons in the Catholic Church. The last time that I saw Connie personally was about 5 years ago. At that time, she was considering becoming a priest, but later decided that the job involved too many administrative duties.

If you would like to listen to the teleconference, a link to it is below:

women on the altar

if you would like to learn more about Roman Catholic women priests, a link to the site is listed below:

let’s rock the boat

During the teleconference, Connie was asked who her modern role model was, and she said it was Sister Joan Chittester, who is a woman that I was familiar with.

Her biography is listed below:

who is Joan Chittester?

Her website is also shown below:

more about Joan

You’ll notice that she has written over 50 books (all of which can be purchased from Amazon) and she also has written numerous other articles. I thought it would be fun to read some of her books, but our local library was not able to obtain any of them.

They final succeeded in finding a book that contained about 6 pages related to her, so I asked them to order it for me.

The book that they obtained was written by Kerry Kennedy (daughter of the later Robert Kennedy) and it is titled “Being Catholic Now”. In addition to the comments by Sister Joan, it also contains comments from 36 other prominent Americans about their Catholic faith.

Kerry is a devout Catholic, as are the majority of the rest of the people in the book. Regardless of your religious background, or your current religious beliefs, it is worth reading. Without exception, the individuals who discussed the nuns or their local priests were very pleased with them. There was less agreement on the church hierarchy, especially the bishops and archbishops.

I guarantee that you’ll find the book to be very educational, but I also guarantee you that at least a few of the individuals quoted will make you feel uncomfortable, which is precisely how all of us learn and grow as we go through life.

If you can find the book at your local library, check it out. If you can’t, it can also be purchased from Amazon.

Go in peace.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Dewey beats Truman

One of the most famous newspaper headlines in history was the one that was printed by the Chicago Daily Tribune on the morning of November 3, 1948, the day after the election. It boldly declared that Thomas Dewey had beaten Harry Truman in the 1948 Presidential election, and it reaffirmed the fact that every poll had confidently predicted that Dewey would win. Just before the election, Life magazine had even released a cover with a photo of Dewey and the caption, “The Next President of the United States”.

Truman was not a glad hander, and the Daily Tribune had a low opinion of him. At one point, they actually called him a nincompoop on their editorial page.

At the time of the election, the Daily Tribune was struggling with a printer’s strike, which forced it to go to press hours before it normally would have. As the deadline for the first headline approached, managing editor Pat Maloney had to make a deadline call, even though results were still coming in from the East Coast. Due to the fact that the paper’s Washington correspondent, Arthur Sears Henning had predicted that Dewey would win, (and he was rarely wrong), Maloney decided to publish the opinion that Dewey had won.

The Tribune had already printed 150,000 copies before radio bulletins reported that the race was surprisingly close. Although the paper ultimately tried to destroy as many of the first edition as it could, one copy managed to get to St. Louis, and was shown to Harry Truman, who proudly held it up for the photographers.

A limited number of papers somehow managed to survive the purge by the Tribune, and a few of them turned up years later. On the day that a Texas couple found one in an abandoned storage facility in 2012, there were six of them listed for sale on eBay. The most expensive one was listed at $2495, but pristine copies of the same edition have sold for as much as $4000, a pretty hefty price for a newspaper that originally sold for 4 cents.

All of us make mistakes at some point in our lives, usually more frequently than we might care to admit. Nevertheless, most of us manage to accomplish enough positive things that we redeem ourselves.

Arguably, the most famous mistake in history was the printing of a postage stamp called “the inverted Jenny”, which was first issued on May 10, 1918. It shows a picture of a Curtis JN-4 airplane flying upside down. Only one pane of 100 inverted stamps was ever found,, which made them prized collector’s items. On May 31, 2016, a perfect copy of an “inverted Jenny” stamp was sold at auction. The final selling price, including the buyer’s premium, was $1,175,000.

The 1948 Presidential election is considered by most historians to be one of the greatest election upsets in American history. Ultimately, Harry Truman captured 28 states and 303 electoral ballots, considerably more than the 266 electoral votes that were required at the time. He got 24,179,347 votes, a little more than 2,000,000 more votes than his rival, Thomas Dewey.

The Truman administration achieved some notable accomplishments, but the start of the Korean War, and his dismissal of General Douglas MacArthur caused his approval rating to plummet to 22% by 1952, which helped Dwight Eisenhower achieve a landslide victory in the 1952 election. After his defeat, Thomas Dewey resumed his role of governor of New York, a role that he held until 1954. At that point, he returned to his private law practice, which made him a very wealthy man.

Thomas Dewey is a good example of handling defeat with honor, and his modern day counterpart is Al Gore, who was defeated by George W. Bush in 2000, even though he had actually captured 500,000 MORE votes than George Bush. The election was finally determined by the fact that Bush captured 271 electoral votes (ONE more that was needed) and Gore captured 266.

I am not a crook.

Eventually, it was determined that Bush actually LOST the election, but by that time, Gore had conceded defeat without whining that the election was “rigged”. As a result, he was able to spend more time discussing climate change, and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for his documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth”.

The botched headline in 1948 did not do any lasting damage to the Chicago Tribune. Over the years, the paper has earned 25 Pulitzer prizes, a respectable number in view of the fact that owner Robert McCormick refused to participate in the awards for a number of years.

The moral of this story is that if you make a mistake, don’t spend a lot of time agonizing over it. Admit your mistake and move on. Tomorrow is another day.

Friday, October 14, 2016

take me out to the ball game, part 2

By now, most of us are VERY TIRED of politics, so it’s fortunate that all the madness will finally come to fruition in a little more than 3 weeks. The majority of the voting population made their decision a long time ago, which means that Trump supporters are unmoved by the “locker room talk” video that turned up last week, and Clinton supporters really don’t care about the Clinton emails that just got released by Wiki Leaks. However, there ARE a lot of people who are undecided because they don’t trust either side.

There WAS a time that the most trusted person in America was Walter Cronkite, but the highest ranked news person today, Diane Sawyer of ABC World News, weighs in at the #25 slot. The top 4 slots are held by actors, and the highest rated politician is First Lady Michelle Obama, who is slotted #19:

Whether we like to admit it or not, all of us can’t help but feel compelled to devour everything that we can about politics, and easy access to numerous publications and websites helps the feeding frenzy.

As a result, it’s important to step back a minute, and consider the fact that there ARE other things in life besides politics.

Like baseball, for instance.

When I was a kid, the most important sport in America was baseball, but it now ranks 2nd (to football) in popularity. As a result, most of us have forgotten that the World Series will start on October 25, and there is a very good chance that the Chicago Cubs could win, due to the fact that they have the best record in baseball, with 103 wins and 58 losses. In contrast, my “old home team”, the Minnesota Twins, have the WORST record in baseball, with 103 LOSSES.

I rarely watch sports on television, and I haven’t been to a professional ball game for a lot years, but I have met a few people who are avid baseball fans, and wrote about one of them last spring.

The best place in the world to watch professional baseball is at Wrigley Field, which I have done on numerous occasions. There's nothing that can compare to having a cold beer in your hand while watching a baseball game being played outdoors in a stadium that has real ivy growing up its walls.

The pre-eminent Cubs fan is the late Steve Goodman. Although he is better known for “The City of New Orleans”, he also wrote a song titled “a dying Cubs fan last request”.

Fittingly, 4 days after his death, on September 24, 1984, the Cubs clinched the Eastern Division title of the National League for the first time in their history, giving them their first post season berth since the 1945 World Series (the first year of the billy goat curse.).

His last song, “a dying Cubs’ fan last request” is worth listening to again:

Steve Goodmans’s last song

Do yourself a favor, and forget politics for a while.

Let’s all go watch a ball game !

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The furnace is beeping.

Nearly 40 years ago, we lived in a split level house in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, the town where Jesse Ventura was mayor from 1991 to 1995.

When we moved into our home on Yellowstone Trail in the summer of 1978, my favorite wife was a stay at home mom. At the time, our son was less than 2 years old, and his sister joined the family a little more than a year later.

While at work one day, I got a call from my panic stricken wife, who breathlessly told me that the furnace was beeping. You and I both know that furnaces don’t beep, but I decided that the best way to resolve the problem was to leave work early and sort out the issue. When I got home, I immediately went to the basement, and patiently waited for the furnace to beep again. In a minute or so, I heard a beep, but quickly discovered that the sound was coming from the BATTERY OPERATED smoke detector mounted on the ceiling. As you know, they beep when the batteries are running low.

Although today is our 44th anniversary, I decided to go into work today, since it was an easy $45 for only half a day of work. At about 9:30, my phone rang. On the other end was my panic stricken wife, who breathlessly told me that the refrigerator in the garage (which was LOADED with a lot of frozen food that we had recently purchased) was not working.

Now for a little background. ….

When we moved into our current home in Tucson, we brought along the beer refrigerator that I had received from Sharon when I turned 60, and plugged it into the outlet in the garage. A few months later, we acquired a full size refrigerator from some friends who lived in Rincon West, a retirement community on the west side of town. Since they simply wanted to scale down a bit, they gave us the refrigerator for free. We plugged the new refrigerator into the same outlet that the beer refrigerator was plugged into, and placed them side by side in the garage.

A few months later, we came back from a trip to Mesa, and discovered that neither refrigerator was working. I quickly discovered that the ground fault circuit breaker in the outlet on the side of the garage had tripped, shutting down the power on that circuit. Naturally, all the food in the freezer was no longer frozen, and had to be tossed out.

To minimize the possibility of having the power go out without warning, I installed a night light in the outlet on that side of the garage so that we could tell at a glance if the power had gone out again. Thinking that it was possible that both refrigerators had kicked in at the same time and overloaded the circuit, I moved the beer refrigerator to the back porch. A few months after that, the beer refrigerator shut down, and I discovered that it had an electrical short. At that point, we got rid of it.

When I got home this morning, the night light on the side of the garage was on, and the refrigerator light was also working when you opened the door – and that’s when I heard “the rest of the story”.

As it turns out, Sharon discovered (upon further investigation) that the night light had burned out. When she had investigated the refrigerator before, she had opened the freezer door rather than the refrigerator. When she didn’t hear anything running, she naturally assumed that the refrigerator had stopped working, even though (as you know) the compressor does not run constantly. Had she opened the refrigerator door, she would have noticed that the light was on, but that would have made for a far less entertaining story.

Needless to say, all is well, and we didn’t need to call an electrician or buy a new refrigerator. I DID chuckle a bit, and gave her a couple of quick hugs to let her know that I appreciate her, even though we occasionally drive each other crazy.

Happy anniversary, Sharon.

I love you.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

I am the greatest

When he was known as Cassius Clay, Muhammad Ali would frequently boast “I am the greatest”. Initially, his braggadocio was dismissed by many critics, who considered him to be a loud mouth black kid from Louisville. Eventually, of course, he proved all of them wrong, when he won the Kentucky Golden Glover championship 6 times, then went on to win an Olympic boxing medal in 1960, followed by 4 heavy weight champion awards, as well as numerous other awards.

He came under particularly harsh criticism when he converted to Islam in the early 1960’s, and even more criticism when he refused induction into the Army, His three year suspension from boxing him kept him out of the ring during what would have been his peak boxing years, and by the time his conviction was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1971, he had not fought for nearly 4 years. He subsequently captured the heavy weight boxing title two more times, in 1974 and 1978, before retiring from boxing in 1981. Most of us would agree that it’s good to have self-confidence, but megalomania is a bad thing. Officially, it’s defined as having an inflated sense of self-importance, and no one exhibits this behavior more clearly than Donald Trump, who is far less successful than he thinks he is. Megalomania is also known as a narcisstic personality disorder, and it can’t be cured.

Megalomania can also apply to countries as well. The Nazi belief in Aryan supremacy eventually resulted in the deaths of 6,000,000 Jews, as well as a smaller number of Catholics, gypsies, homosexuals, and others considered not fit.

Quite a few countries have adopted the same attitude over the course of history, going all the way back to the ancient Greeks, and probably even further than that. Closer to home, the attitude is known as “American exceptionalism”, which led to the emergence of the phrase “Make America Great Again”. As actor Jeff Daniels mentioned on an episode of “The Newsroom”, we are NOT the greatest country in the world. As I mentioned in my article of January 25, 2015, our country is ranked #17 when it comes to our public education system (Finland is ranked #1), even though there ARE a number of areas where we are ranked the best in the world.

According to the article listed below, we are ranked #28 in the world when it comes to overall quality of living. As is often the case, the Scandinavian countries usually do pretty well in these types of surveys, but that doesn’t mean that we should all make plans to move to Sweden of Finland.

Lancet study

Before moving to China in 2003, I read a book titled, “Chinese Business Etiquette”, written by Scott Seligman. In the book, Mr. Seligman discusses the concept of guanxi (pronounce gwan she) , which literally means “relationships”. As Hillary Clinton pointed out in her book, “Hard Choices”, it’s critical to maintain respectful relationships with other countries as often as possible, since that is the best possible way to maintain peace in the world. The opposite approach, of course, is the “Bush doctrine”, which caused our relationships with many of our allies to sour. It also cost us over 4000 American lives in needless wars, and will eventually cost us over 6 trillion dollars in direct and indirect expenses.

At the Democratic convention, Michelle Obama said that “America is already great”, and she is absolutely correct. However, it’s also true that we aren’t perfect, and it’s our responsibility to continue to improve our country as well as we can, in spite of the obstacles thrown in our path (some of whom are our elected officials). If we can do that, the next Lancet survey that comes out will place us a lot higher than #28.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Do black patent shoes really reflect up ?

The book shown above was published by the late John .R. Powers in 1975. It was subsequently adapted into a Broadway musical and a screenplay. The book is a hilarious tale about growing up in the Catholic faith, and Powers drew heavily from his own experience growing up as a Catholic in Chicago in the 1950’s. The book is the 2nd novel that he published. The first was “The Last Catholic in America”, and was part of what became known as “the Eddie Ryan trilogy. The 1977 novel titled “The Unoriginal Sinner and the Ice Cream God” rounded out the trilogy.

I graduated from a Catholic grade school and a Catholic high school, as did my sister. In addition, she also graduated from a Catholic all girl’s college. Naturally, the books written by Mr. Powers brought back a lot of memories, most of them fond. Even today, I still get regular mailings from my high school, even though I graduated from there more than 50 years ago.

The REASON that I get those mailings has a lot less to do with my alma mater’s affection for me than it does for its need to raise cash for scholarships. I have no idea what my parents paid for my tuition, but I’m fairly certain it was less than $500 a year. Truth be told, it was actually a very good education, since a high percentage of the students who attended there were in college prep classes.

Today, the tuition for grades 9-12 at what is now known as Hill-Murray (the boy’s and girl’s schools merged about 10 years after I graduated) is a jaw-dropping $13,245, which is more than COLLEGE tuition at the public universities in the state of Arizona. In total, donations from various businesses and individuals have helped to create a scholarship fund of $1.34 million. Although the current tuition level sounds high, it is actually very comparable to other private schools around the country.

Some of my current “hot buttons” (concern for the environment and issues of social justice) are the result of seeds that were sown at Mary T. Hill high school.

Somewhere along the line, I followed the path of many folks who grew up Catholic, and simply stopped considering myself to be a Catholic. For a variety of reasons, nearly HALF of the people in this country who were raised in the Catholic faith no longer practice that faith. In part, that’s a reflection of our society in general. Although 70.6% of the American population still consider themselves to be Christian, all of the “mainline” religions have seen a decline. Between 2007 and 2014, the percentage of Americans who consider themselves to be Catholic declined from 23.9% to 20.8%. The only religious group that grew in that time period was “unaffiliated”, which rose from 16.1% of the population to 22.8%.

Although our Founding Fathers were very firm about separating church and state, there are numerous nods to religion in our society, including adding “under God” to the pledge of allegiance in 1954. In 1956, “in God we trust” was adopted as our official national motto, replacing the unofficial motto of “E pluribus Unum. In recent years, a number of cities have added “in God we trust” to their police cars, which very few people got excited about. However, the Detroit suburb of Hamtramck is the first Muslim majority city in America. If they decided to add “Allah be praised” to THEIR police cars, it would take roughly a nanosecond for the right wing conservatives in our country to go ballistic. Bill O’Reilly would probably go into immediate cardiac arrest, and the rest of the FOC crew would spend HOURS debating the impropriety of the act.

Inevitably, of course, religion has crept into our politics. As a result, people who have no business at all holding office get elected due to the fact that “they are good Christians”. Representative Louis Gohmert is the prime example of this phenomenon, but Minnesota has Michelle Bachman, and Arizona has Sylvia Allen.

In the 2008 election cycle, I was initially supportive of the candidates from both parties, but as soon as John McCain selected Sara Palin as his running mate, it became obvious that I needed to vote for Barack Obama.

In 2012, the choice was easier due to the fact that (1) the Obama administration had made significant progress in correcting the mess left by George W. Bush and (2) the Republican Party has gradually been destroyed by the Tea Party and other right wing factions, which has caused it to become a political party that neither Ronald Reagan or Dwight Eisenhower would recognize.

For 2016, the decision is a slam dunk.

Donald Trump does not have the knowledge, the experience, or the temperament to lead our country. On top of that, he is a failed businessman (as evidenced by his 4 bankruptcies) , a prolific adulterer, and a pathological liar. Studies by a variety of fact checking organizations have found that he tells the truth less than 30% of the time.

Hillary Clinton is not the charismatic figure exemplified by Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, or John F. Kennedy. What she IS, though, is one of the MOST QUALIFIED Presidential candidate that we have ever had, a fact that was brought home while I worked my way through her 2014 book titled “Hard Choices”, which chronicles her work while she was Secretary of State. It’s very clear that the work of a diplomat is very delicate work. In addition to his other faults, Trump’s temperament would actually be a GRAVE DANGER for our country, since he would make it more difficult for our diplomatic corps to keep all of us safe.

Hillary has been the victim of 25 years of “witch hunts” by the opposing party. Although the farcical Benghazi “investigations” have finally come to an end, there are STILL people who bring up her emails, and Matt Lauer is the most recent example of that stupidity. If any commentator brought up the topic at any of th Presidential debates (the first is scheduled for September 26th) I’d like to see him shot on the spot, which obviously is not going to happen.

I try to keep an open mind on a variety of topics, which is why I read articles from both progressive and conservative sources. Over a period of years, I have discovered that conservative sources have gotten less reliable, in large part due to the success of FOX “news” and the rise of conservative radio talk show personalities like Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones.

I saw an article recently that professed the belief that you couldn’t be a good Catholic and a Democrat, an idea that is clearly preposterous. You may or may not agree with all of the ideas contained in the 2016 Democratic platform (which IS a very progressive platform), but it wouldn’t take you more than a few minutes of reading the 2016 Republican platform to reach the conclusion that the Party has clearly lost its mind. Although it IS possible that the orange menace could get elected, Nate Silver and other pollsters have all concluded that it’s not likely to happen. As a matter of fact, it’s now quite likely that Trump will continue to pull down the rest of the Republican Party, and cause the Senate to return to the control of “the adults in the room” (the Democrats). Although gerrymandering by state legislatures mean that it is unlikely that the Republicans will lose the House, it’s a dead certainty that they are going to lose some seats in that chamber.

I have no idea what political party John Powers belonged to, nor do I care. What he DID add to our society is the idea that some of our long held beliefs should occasionally be discarded, or at least examined a little more closely. On occasion, even some of my trusted progressive news sources don’t always get the facts right. By the same token, there are STILL a lot of people who think that it makes sense to vote for the Republican Party, even though (to a very large degree) no longer makes sense to do so.

To be honest, I’ve only read the first two books in the “Eddie Ryan trilogy”, but I’m pretty sure that “the unoriginal sinner and the ice cream God” is going to find its way into my hands in the near future.